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Best Friends: Portraits of Sydney and Frances Lewis

February 18-July 11, 2004


(above: Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), Portraits of Sydney Lewis and Frances Lewis, 1973, acrylic and enamel on canvas (6 panels), 40 x 40 inches(each panel), Collection of Sydney & Frances Lewis)


"Best Friends" features portraits of Sydney and Frances Lewis by many of the top artists they collected, including Andy Warhol, Chuck Close and Alex Katz. Inspired by their encounters with Warhol, the Lewises became interested in contemporary art in the early 1960s and they soon befriended many of the artists whose works they acquired. (right: Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), Sydney's Harem (detail), 1966, silk-screened oil on canvas; 60 by 64 inches; Collection of Frances Lewis; © 2003 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / ARS, New York.)

Through their national company, Best Products, they built an additional contemporary collection, often exchanging household appliances and other merchandise for works of art. In 1985, the Lewises gave their private collection to VMFA and helped construct a new wing to house it. Their generosity helped transform VMFA into one of the top museums in the United States.

The Lewis portraits have never before been shown together in public. While united by a single subject, they represent a broad spectrum of media and styles. A selection of around 25 paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs will be on view, including works of Photorealism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art, and West Coast Funk. Some of the other artists represented are Robert Arneson, Jack Beal, Roy DeForest and Robert Morris. By showing portraits of the Richmond couple well known for embracing adventurous new art, "Best Friends" presents a local and contemporary parallel to the famous 19th-century Bruyas collection featured in the concurrent exhibition "Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!" "Best Friends" also recognizes the Lewises' major contributions to VMFA on the eve of the 20th anniversary of their gift to the museum and the building of the West Wing.

Organizer: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Curator: John Ravenal, curator of Modern and Contemporary art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (right John Ravenal, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art . Photo by Denise Lewis, © 2001 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.)

Editor's note: readers may also enjoy these articles and essays concerning Andy Warhol previously published in Resource Library Magazine::

rev. 4/14/05

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Resource Library.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2003 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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